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‘Art in Society’ Category

  1. Learning Objectives, Part B

    December 2, 2012 by

    Part B Student Learning Portfolio

    Art In Society AAD 550


    1. When I began this class, I stated in my learning objectives that I wanted to get back into the habit of abstract thinking, saying that this class could be “physical fitness for my frontal lobe.” I do feel that I achieved that. My frontal lobe is in much better shape. I enjoyed using my imagination (like for Module 4, when we talked about the future of arts programming), and as the term went on, I found it easier to understand and analyze dense texts like Becker’s Art Worlds.

    2. I wanted to become better acquainted with Eugene through my Field Guide. I have definitely accomplished this. When working on the Guide, I went to five different music venues in town. I also met and interviewed people working in music locally. This was a great way feel more at home here in my new locale.

    3. I hoped “to understand my position better as an arts administrator within society.” I had detailed questions that I hoped to be able to answer:

    • How does an arts manager/administrator contribute to the artistic process or the generation of creative output? In answer to this question, in the case of working for a music venue, I would say there is a great range depending on the type of position the administrator holds. It has a lot to do with the size of the venue, the staffing structure, whether it’s nonprofit or for-profit, and what the organization’s mission or guiding values are. I learned that if I want to be a part of the creative process in an organization, I’ll have to make that a goal when it’s time to find a job—not all arts admin positions afford this opportunity. Additionally, not all organizations care equally about the quality of art they promote.

    • What is an arts administrator’s responsibility to facilitate the making of “good” art? Making “good,” or meaningful, or important art is not a goal or value to all arts administrators. It’s only an arts administrator’s responsibility if they make it so—although they also must keep in mind the wants and needs of the stakeholders and constituents of their organization, especially if it’s a nonprofit.
    • Is the arts administrator’s responsibility to the artist they are supporting, the audience, their organization? Who is the most important to please? Again, there’s a lot of variance here—it depends on the individual and organization. I still haven’t answered this question. I think generally, though, the responsibility should be to the audience/public, since that’s ultimately who the arts administrator is working for.

    4. I hoped to be able to define “transmedia” and find examples that “excited” me. I did become comfortable with the idea of transmedia by about the midpoint of the course. I found many live music-related examples for my Field Guide, and I enjoyed “curating” them. What I discovered is that transmedia is a pretty broad term, at least as we used it in this class. It is basically anything that expands the content or narrative of a central topic. What best summed the term up for me is a Jenkins quote from “Transmedia Storytelling 101”: “This process of world-building encourages an encyclopedic impulse in both readers and writers. We are drawn to master what can be known about a world which always expands beyond our grasp.”

    5. I wanted “to deepen and broaden my current base of Internet resources for all things art and society.” I have done that; I’ve discovered and bookmarked many new blogs and websites. Again, research for my Field Guide was especially helpful in this regard.

    6. Finally, I said, “As an artist myself, I would like to remember to consider all course readings and material from that point of view, not just as an outside analyzer or future arts manager.” This wasn’t so much a learning objective as a directive to myself. I did consider readings and class discussions from both points of view—arts administrator and artist—as well as consumer/audience/patron, and indirect supporter of the arts (like Becker talking about the people that manufacture canvas for a painter they’ll never know). This class helped me to think about the arts more globally.


  2. Transmedia Field Guide!

    November 28, 2012 by

    AAD 550 Art In Society


    I finished my Transmedia Field Guide. It’s called Best Show Ever: The Audience Experience of Live Music In Eugene Venues and Beyond. It can be found here! I had a blast making this site. It was a lot of work, but I loved every minute of it.

    Here is the description of this assignment.

    Part B: Field Guide based on provided template. Posted to your student learning portfolio with hotlinks and embedded media. This will be the “final project” for our course, and will need to exhibit the rigor of editing and construction associated with such things. The provided template breaks the field guide into sections (required), and you will populate these sections with examples, analysis, and references to outside sources as appropriate. Due November 28.


    Section 1: Introduction to art world/practice = a brief overview that provides key terms, definitions, and historical context

    Section 2: Setting = a description of the participants, community, and/or context for the subject introduced in Section 1

    Section 3: Transmediations = a narrated tour through a mininum of 7 (seven) transmedia resources that you used to map your subject

    Section 4: Analysis = a critical discussion of the art world/practice under investigation that draws on course materials/texts, themes and issues from course discussions, and any relevant outside sources


  3. Transmedia Field Guide Slide

    November 28, 2012 by

    AAD 550 Art In Society


    This is Part C of my Transmedia Field Guide. This PowerPoint slide is a brief summation of my entire Transmedia Field Guide, which is a WordPress site devoted to the investigation of the audience’s experience at a live concert, in Eugene, OR and beyond.

    Assignment Description:

    Part C: One (1) powerpoint/presentation slide along with 5 minute presentation to class.. This slide should consist of an image representing your field guide’s subject matter and no more than three bulleted text bits. We will post these together as a gallery on the course site after the presentations. Due by November 26.

  4. Transmedia Field Guide Part A

    October 15, 2012 by

    AAD 450/550 Art in Society, Professor Fenn



    Vocal Ornamentation in Contemporary Music

    How did modern use of vocal runs in r and b and pop music evolve from classical usage? What are some of the other vocal flourishes that singers use on a regular basis? How do vocal techniques vary across these genres: classical, r and b, gospel, rock, commercial pop, and experimental or indie rock? In my field guide, I plan on identifying different techniques that singers use to make a vocal line sound more interesting, display their vocal prowess, or express whatever emotion they are trying to convey more accurately. I will also explore the history of vocal ornamentation. I will look to examples of vocal ornamentation largely in contemporary American music. To narrow down the artist choices, I will use the Billboard charts (, investigating the singing styles and ornament usage of approximately five artists from each genre that are currently charting, using them as case studies.

    Vocal ornamentation is an individual skill, and generally hinges on the ability or talent of one person performing (as opposed to a group). However, vocalists, like all musicians, borrow from and are inspired by one another. We can see vocal techniques as at art world because of the tremendous influence vocalists have on one another. Even though soloists do not, by nature, sing together, the style in which each sings is inevitably informed by his or her peers and musical icons. The same could be said for any artist. A network is built between singers because of their shared sources of musical inspiration and education. It goes without saying (though I will say it anyway), that this is true now more than ever with the advent of the Internet, as access to videos and songs is virtually unlimited.

    I will focus heavily on the use of melisma in my field guide, which Wikipedia defines as “. . . the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession” ( Melisma is often referred to as a vocal run. Runs are difficult to master, and can be a form of showboating among both experienced classical and r and b vocalists. The below video is long, but brilliantly isolates and compares some of the more complicated vocal ornamentations that Beyonce and Christina Aguilera have performed live.

    In classical music, runs are rarely, if ever, improvised, but are written into the music by the composer. Here is a good example of the classical foundation of the current usage of melisma. It is “I Attempt From Love’s Sickness” by Henry Purcell, performed by Nancy Argenta

    The pop singer Regina Spektor uses melisma in the chorus of 2010’s radio hit, “Fidelity.” Spektor has made vocal experimentation a centerpiece of her musical style. She often uses a rhythmic vocal delivery similar to rap, vocally echoes instrumental parts, and plays with the texture of hard consonant sounds, among other tricks. I will look at more examples of her work in my field guide. Watch “Fidelity” below.

    The musician M.I.A. appeared in the dance/indie music scene in 2005, surprising listeners with track two of her album first album Arular, “Pull Up the People.” She uses an upward vocal slide that sounds a bit like a yelp or a call.

    I have noticed the same technique applied by a multitude of singers since M.I.A. became prolific, from Canadian art rock band Braids, to a hint in pop country music star Taylor Swift’s new single, “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” In Swift’s song, the vocal flip lands somewhere between M.I.A.’s yelp and an intentional vocal break that jumps up in pitch, used commonly in pop and country music.

    These examples are culled from the knowledge I already have of vocal features and ornamentation. In doing research for this project, I hope to discover patterns like the “vocal flip” in genres I don’t normally listen to, such as punk rock. I also want to investigate the way that music production software has influenced the skills a singer can display. Auto-tune, for example, has dramatically changed the sound of pop music in just a few years. Auto-tune often alters the sound of a vocalist’s voice to the extent that it’s sometimes hard to believe the origin of the vocal track was a real human being singing.  The hip-hop musician T-Pain is the most popular example of this, as he was the first musician to gain widespread notoriety for using auto-tune as a main feature of a song. Listen to “Can’t Believe It” here.

    I plan on interviewing one or two voice teachers about their methods of teaching techniques like runs (is it even possible to teach a run? I’m not sure). I also would like to record an audio guide to the most commonly used ornamentations, possibly using my own voice to demonstrate. Finally, I’d like to make a downloadable playlist of some of the best examples of singers using ornamentation. I hope to lead a reader to a better understanding of why singers make the stylistic choices they do, and demonstrate how a well-placed vocal ornament can add the power or beauty of a song.




  5. Caldera: Metamorphosis Through Art

    October 10, 2012 by

    AAD 450/550 Art in Society, Professor Fenn

    Module 1 Essay: Caldera: Metamorphosis Through Art

    Chloe Alexander

    Yinchi Chang

    Alexandra Richardson



    Caldera: A Snapshot

    Caldera is a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon. Its mission: “Caldera is a catalyst for transformation through innovative art and environmental programs” ( Caldera provides mentorship for both rural-Oregon and Portland-area youth who have been identified as struggling by teachers, starting in middle school. The program provides each student with artistic training and more broadly, a structured outlet for creative self-expression. Opportunities are also available for leadership skill building, apprenticeships, and scholarships for college education. The organization, which now includes year-round student mentorship, grew out of an arts and nature summer camp held at Caldera’s Arts Center in Sisters, OR. Invited artists mentor students in a variety of different mediums, ranging from logo t-shirt creation with marketing firm Wieden + Kennedy to drumming workshops with world-renown Ghanaian master drummer Obo Addy.

    See video “Caldera: The Support of Many,” here:

    The organization expanded its programming based on the success of its original project, Caldera Summer Camp, which itself was inspired by the idea that supporting a child’s creativity ultimately creates a more well-adjusted contributing member of society. Caldera is concerned not just with incubating new artists through its programs, but with using art to encourage the personal development of its participants.  From video:

    “…if you nurture artistic creativity in children, those children will grow up to deploy that creativity in all the other parts of their lives. This is the story of how a theory was put into practice, and how that practice became a place….Today we have a community…”

    Caldera’s community also includes practicing adult artists. In addition to its youth program, Caldera invites artists to participate in their Artists in Residence program. Some artists work with the participants of the youth program, and some share work they’ve created during their residency in the town of Sisters. The organization’s primary goal, though, is to transition kids from middle school to high school, and to ensure that those students graduate from high school. As of 2012, 100% of the 8th-graders with whom Caldera has worked have transitioned to high school, and 93% of 12th-graders have graduated from high school (

    Caldera’s Values

    Three values that exemplify Caldera and represent connectivity in models of social or community art are: community involvement, equal opportunity, and potential (the creative and personal potential of the participant, and the potential of collaborations).

    Caldera holds a strong sense of community involvement. The organization’s staff works closely with the public schools to which they are connected, seeking potential students who will become program participants. By involving local schoolteachers, Caldera opens up a channel of communication between area educators and their organization. Without these public schoolteachers who share Caldera’s compassion for and commitment to at-risk children, Caldera may not exist, at least in its current incarnation.

    Since 2006, Caldera has conducted annual or biannual themed art projects through alliances with its partner schools and local communities. Artists and well established cultural workers are also brought in to work with the kids. This way of pooling resources creates a unique engagement for the artists, the students, and the community; their interaction with each other creates a vibrant nexus of creative work and ideas. In these projects, Caldera exposes its students to various disciplines of art, whether performing art, visual art, or filmmaking, and provides a way for the students to have an expressive outlet. Through the “Words Without Walls” program in 2008, Caldera collaborated with the organization Nature of Words in Bend, Oregon. The program enabled students “to interpret traditional poetry, study the history of hip-hop and create and present their own original work” ( The original poetry produced by Caldera students was shown in storefront window displays, incorporated into self-portraits, and even printed on items that the students could take home and show their parents, like coffee cup sleeves.

    The hip-hop element broadened the idea of what art can be for these students. In this particular project, students were able to learn about oral tradition and then fuse the traditional and the modern to create something of their own. Poetry and the history of hip-hop were not used purely as curriculum, as they may have been in a traditional high school English class. Instead, students were guided by mentors to produce their own original content and then engaged with the local community to exhibit it publicly. This model has the power to enhance the students’ sense of self and feeling of belonging to a larger commonwealth, who in turn may come to have a greater stake in the students’ success. This type of model could be viewed as social insurance. Here, the aesthetics of the created art are secondary. The process of creating that art and how the community responds to the kids’ hard work is what is important to all those involved.

    Caldera’s projects clearly demonstrate the organization’s mission and goal. Students are given equal opportunity to create and to grow—students who, due to their socioeconomically or otherwise disadvantaged status, are more likely to drop out of school. Supported by mentors, each student’s creative potential is drawn out; meanwhile, the student becomes an essential part of the project and/or community. This helps each student develop a sense of self and negotiate their place in society as they grow into young adults. The leadership of Caldera, as well as the mentors and visiting artists, all see an opportunity to optimize each student’s development by using art to educate, and along the way create a better member of society. This is the principle around which Caldera is organized. Additionally, the organization is always looking for new organizations with which to partner by renewing its programming theme every year or two. Caldera seems to see potential collaborations everywhere, and in keeping its horizons for novel partnerships broad, manages to keep students engaged who perhaps have already been involved in the program for a few years. This flexibility and embrace of new ideas keeps Caldera fresh.


    Transmediation and Aesthetics in Caldera

    Often technology-based and participatory in nature, utilizing transmedia is a great way to keep kids engaged in a project. Participants in Caldera’s programs have been exposed to many transmedia aspects of the art world. Students have designed billboards, created PSAs and even a television segment for America’s Most Wanted. Youth have made an ad campaign for Caldera itself, and designed everything from shoes to MP3 players to tea. In fact, Steven Smith Teamaker ( now sells Caldera Chai.


    Howard Becker (1982) speaks of a possible way to define the aesthetic value of an artwork: it may derive from the consensus of the participants in that art world. As stated previously, Caldera does not overtly emphasize the value of aesthetics, although the high caliber of artists who partner with the organization likely contribute to student work of commensurate quality. Instead, it is the value of community collaboration and the mentors’ commitment to students that is especially powerful. The organization is participatory and interactive to its core, as evidenced by the framework of Caldera’s programming. And it is the process of the art creation, rather than the product, that community partners and mentors might find beautiful, moving or inspirational. The message, in this case, is much more powerful than the medium. This echoes Danto, as quoted by Becker (1982, p. 149): “Art exists in an atmosphere of interpretation and an artwork is thus a vehicle of interpretation.” If a marketing firm created an ad campaign or branded a tea for Caldera, it would not likely be interpreted as art. Even though Caldera’s programs are not necessarily aesthetically driven, the organization has called what its students do “art,” so regardless of what product is created, it is interpreted as such.

    The transmediation of art might be especially important for struggling students because many of today’s youth may not believe that the world of contemporary art has anything to offer them. When the average young American thinks of “art,” they most likely conjure the mental image of great canvases displayed in far away museums, to which only the highly educated are granted access. In reality, the definition of art is wide enough to accommodate a whole spectrum of participants and methodologies of practice.

    Harrel Fletcher speaks about traditional art practice in his interview on teaching public art (Willis, 2008): “Everything that students are learning in art school is based on a studio practice model. The idea is that you go to your studio, have your genius moment, come up with a painting, sculpture, or whatever it is and then the way that it is presented—if it is ever presented—is in a commercial gallery and then in a museum. Hopefully.” (p.121). The studio practice model makes the art world exclusive to the already fortunate class of youth who are lucky enough to attend schools that encourage and support personal artistic growth. Caldera aims to take art out of the restricting studio context and create an approachable outlet for creative students.

    The variety of media used by Caldera is praiseworthy. The participants are not assigned simple arts and crafts projects, but rather are exposed to a huge range of experiences that “are open to artists from any field, as well as scientists, engineers and environmentalists” ( Again, this aspect of transmediation is important because it demonstrates to at-risk youth that art is not a limiting field; art can be applied to almost any professional discipline.

    This summer, Caldera brought Kansas City, MO-based nonprofit Whoop Dee Doo ( to its summer camp to teach kids about radio. Whoop Dee Doo has a contemporary and transmedia-oriented take on arts programming for kids and adults, bringing together a wildly diverse cast of performers and teachers for a faux cable access show that hosts live, free shows and workshops. This organization is worth noting because of its absolute refusal to serve one narrow audience or utilize one area of art or experience in its quest to entertain and educate. Whoop Dee Doo takes the kitchen sink approach to its programming, imagining that its events will spur unique and surprising alliances within the community. This is a prime example of the “social practice art” that Fletcher (2008) speaks of. Caldera is much more directed and selective in its programming, but the two are similar: they both share the values of equal opportunity, a belief in the creative potential innate in youth and the potential of artistic collaboration, and community involvement.


    The Caldera Method

    Ultimately, Caldera’s goal is to impart hope to youth who may not have much, and to transform the lives of these students through the process of art making. This socially responsible model, which Caldera has proven to be successful, could be applied to many different types of organizations. As it stands now, Caldera is an independently functioning program that draws select students from public high schools and middle schools. In the future, perhaps a new approach could help Caldera to further penetrate the nonprofit sector and extend the organization’s reach. Developing its own educational system (the Caldera Method, let’s call it), the organization could train a representative to go to other youth nonprofit organizations, providing a seminar on how to introduce art as a creative and educational outlet. Alternately, Caldera could partner with organizations by designing art projects that cater to each one’s particular needs. Some organizations that we preliminarily identified are: Albertina Kerr, Outside In, Portland Youth Builders, and Sexual Minority Youth Recreation Center. These programs work with children who are developmentally disabled, homeless, struggling to graduate from high school, or facing challenges due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. How could Caldera use its experience and expertise in the field of youth community art to nurture creativity in the kids served by these organizations? Could Caldera’s programming be added into the curriculum or support services that these organizations already employ? Or perhaps participants from each group could form one symposium that guides the planning of the art project for the following year? Could the students from each group mentor each other in some capacity, trading skills or information, or could they meet regularly for participant-led art-making workshops? The possibilities are endless, with collaborations initiated by Caldera’s staff, by participants, or some combination thereof. However executed, Caldera has developed a successful model for transforming the lives of young people through art, and it is one that can (and should) be shared and instituted by other organizations.



    Becker, H. S. (1982). Art worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Willis, S. (2008). Teaching Public Art in the Twenty-first Century: An Interview with Harrell Fletcher. In C. Cartiere and S. Willis (Eds.), The practice of public ar (pp. 120-130). London: Routledge.

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    References For Class Discussion

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  6. Learning Objectives, Art in Society

    October 7, 2012 by

    These are my learning objectives for AAD 550, Art in Society. These objectives speak to what my expectations are of myself for this class, as well as my expectations of coursework.

    1. The course material for Art in Society has a heavy bent toward theoretical/conceptual ideations of art and its place in society. This is somewhat challenging for me. I hope to find a way into the material by becoming better at:

    • Translating the more abstract readings and ideas into something I can understand by applying it to a “real world” situation; for example, thinking of how a purveyor of an artwork (someone who visits a gallery, let’s say) applies Institutional Theory, even if that individual doesn’t know the term Institutional Theory
    • Pushing myself to think abstractly at will. I think of this class as physical fitness for my frontal lobe.

    2. I hope to become better acquainted with Eugene through the Field Guide Project, which will likely necessitate me doing some field research around town.

    3. I hope to understand my position better as an arts administrator within society. I hope to come up with possible answers for questions like:

    • How does an arts manager/administrator contribute to the artistic process or the generation of creative output?
    • What is her responsibility to facilitate the making of “good” art?
    • Is her responsibility to the artist she is supporting, the audience, her organization? Who is the most important to please?

    4. As what “transmedia” exactly is still eludes me, I hope to gain comfortability with the term, and be able to find examples that excite and interest me.

    5. I would like to deepen and broaden my current base of Internet resources for all things art and society. I currently visit only a few blogs regularly, and feel there is an entire world of great art and information that I don’t know how to sift through. I expect I will know how to track down the websites relevant to me a little more easily after this class, or at least reignite my interest in discovering new arts and culture blogs and websites. I also hope to better understand how I will use these resources in my future career as an arts administrator.

    6. As an artist myself, I would like to remember to consider all course readings and material from that point of view, not just as an outside analyzer or future arts manager. Discussions of what art means to people individually, in communities and subgroups, and as a society are interesting. But, I don’t want to imagine myself as somehow separate from the discussion. This goes back to 1. above. How do these issues affect me on a day-to-day basis, as a musician and writer?

    7. Finally, I want formulate an opinion about what makes an collaborative art project or community-based nonprofit organization successful through its use of community engagement/interactivity/participatory practices.


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